International Fundraising eConference Roundup: Empowering Networked Communities
We’re living in a networked society where people are interested in making a real difference by doing things through their own, self-selected communities — online and offline.
This according to Bryan Miller, head of strategy and consumer insight at Cancer Research UK, who presented the session "Community Fundraising 2.0: The Future of Fundraising in Our Networked Society" at the first International Fundraising eConference May 12 to 14.
Miller said we’re living in a networked society not because we're connected by the Internet, but rather because individuals are "free in ways not available to previous generations to choose our own personalized networks of connections and influences — in place of traditional sources of information and authority."
"The societal changes underpinning this have taken place over several generations through the dissolution of traditional social constraints related to things like class and gender," he said. "And the increased personal expectations and wider world view that come with increasing education levels, job flexibility, affluence, opportunities to travel, etc."
Living in a networked society has had two key impacts:
1. Consumers are increasingly defending themselves against marketing messages, leading to falling response rates for traditional "interruptive" communications.
2. Peer endorsement — primarily family and friends — is replacing the opinion of traditional sources of authority, including brands. Word-of-mouth is still the key channel for peer endorsement. Miller said that while, at most, about 20 percent of peer-to-peer brand advocacy currently occurs online, it is growing every year.
The result is that consumers now sit in a Web of information sources that they predominantly have chosen — made up of friends and family, social networks, peer-to-peer sites, specialist information sites, online search, nonprofits, traditional news sources, and traditional advertising — which makes it more challenging when looking at how best to engage people.
What this all means is that fundraisers have to stop interrupting what people are interested in and become what people are interested in. This is challenging for many organizations, Miller said, because so much of mass fundraising activity is based on interruptive approaches. This shift requires nonprofits to evolve.
Traditional, individual-donor fundraising follows a "funnel" approach, in which organizations pump prospects into the top, present them with fundraising asks, and see who comes out of the bottom with a donation. Miller said this is how many nonprofits measure the performance of direct marketing.
But the challenge is that year on year it becomes an ever more costly process to deliver the volume of people needed to come through with a donation. The metrics of this model are becoming increasingly difficult, and acquisition costs are going up.
The solution, he says, is to borrow the concept from marketing guru Seth Godin that suggests flipping the funnel and turning it into a supporter megaphone where one supporter at the end of the funnel connects with all of her friends and contacts.
Miller said social media makes this possible, and that's why it's so exciting. But before thinking about which technology you'll use, start by developing an understanding of who you seek to engage on Web 2.0. Start to consider this area of fundraising by thinking in a supporter-focused way. Who do you want to engage with? How and why do they use the Internet?
There's a wealth of information online to help answer this question. One source he suggested looking to is Forrester's Social Technographics Ladder, which is a profile of online consumers based on the level that they have adopted social media. It breaks online consumers into these six categories:
- Creators: These individuals publish Web pages, publish or maintain blogs, and upload video to sites like YouTube.
- Critics: These people comment on blogs and post ratings and reviews.
- Collectors: Use RSS and tag Web pages
- Joiners: Use social-networking sites
- Spectators: Read blogs and customer reviews, watch peer-generated video, and listen to podcasts.
- Inactives: Do none of the above-mentioned activities.
Miller suggested organizations use Forrester's free tool to determine the social technographics profile of their donors, being sure to look at an age split, as age is a key determinant of online adoption.
Miller also suggested using the social technographics questions in your own supporter surveys and keeping an eye out for free research reports available online, e.g., Universal McCann's Social Media Tracker, Razorfish's "Digital Mom" report, the e-Nonprofit Benchmarks Study and Givinginadigitalworld.org.
Web 2.0, Miller said, is all about people in self-selected communities online and offline, rather than individuals at the end of a mailings-based communication. He said it's all about community fundraising 2.0 — taking all we know about community fundraising and adding what we're learning about Web 2.0.
There are three components to achieving community fundraising 2.0:
1. Audience. Identify your current and potential online community fundraisers.
Miller suggested doing this using much the same approach as for traditional community fundraising. Get out there and start listening online. Get to know the sites that the people who match your donor profile might be on.
He recommended three key steps to finding your online community fundraisers:
- Learn from what people are already doing for you — through your activities or in their own online communities
- Invite them to take part in online discussions about future fundraising — what support they would like, etc. This is a great way to generate and test ideas.
- Then reach out to others who might fit the profile of active online community members from your existing supporter base or through peer-to-peer recruitment.
2. Develop community-based fundraising opportunities that work for online community fundraisers.
These should be tangible, simple and interesting. Most importantly, they should be worth talking about. Miller recommended thinking about ways to package fundraising opportunities that are familiar to them.
One method he discussed is online "crowdfunding," which basically is a Web 2.0 buzzword for gathering groups of people and letting them fundraise as a group — going from one-to-one to many, engaging with someone who then engages with her whole network. It can be used for event fundraising for online community events, brand-specific online project crowdfunding (MyProjects by Cancer Research UK), and cause-specific online project crowdfunding (Kiva.org) or multicause online project crowdfunding (sites like GlobalGiving and Pifworld that aggregate project funding activities) that equip people to raise money as groups.
Other methods are peer-to-peer, in-community activity and micro-philanthropic opportunity aggregation, e.g., Social Actions, which aggregates support opportunities, both financial and nonfinancial. Social Actions isn't just a database of ways to support things, but has gone one step further and been built to push out support opportunities to blogs and other sites based on relevancy.
3. Tools. Help supporters use the most suitable social-media tools to spread the word and raise money.
You don't even need your own Web site, Miller said. The availability of secure fundraising platforms like Justgiving or tools and widgets within the various social-media sites enable people to fundraise for you without you having to have the functionality on your Web site.
People are interested in making a real difference by doing things through their own, self-selected, communities — online and offline. Miller recommended organizations adjust to this by making the following changes:
- Change the skill sets and roles of individual donors, changing the focus from the direct-marketing thinking of contact lists as the platform for fundraising to communities.
- Rather than thinking about campaigns as things that they prepare and then send out, organizations need to move to thinking about giving content to online supporters, which they then can retool and give to their friends.
- Move from thinking of fundraisers as campaign managers to thinking of them as community managers, learning from all of the things that they've known and learned over the years from community fundraising.
"Combining the enthusiasm, skills and experience of community fundraisers with the data-led discipline of direct marketing" is the key, Miller said.